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PLoS One. 2013 Sep 12;8(9):e73135. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0073135. eCollection 2013.

The effect of attending steiner schools during childhood on health in adulthood: a multicentre cross-sectional study.

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Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics, Charité University Medical Center, Berlin, Germany.



It is speculated that attending Steiner schools, whose pedagogical principles include an account for healthy psycho-physical development, may have long-term beneficial health effects. We examined whether the current health status differed between former attendees of German Steiner schools and adults from the general population. Furthermore, we examined factors that might explain those differences.


We included former Steiner school attendees from 4 schools in Berlin, Hanover, Nuremberg and Stuttgart and randomly selected population controls. Using a self-report questionnaire we assessed sociodemographics, current and childhood lifestyle and health status. Outcomes were self-reports on 16 diseases: atopic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, bronchial asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cardiac arrhythmia, cardiac insufficiency, angina pectoris, arteriosclerosis, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, osteoarthritis, rheumatism, cancer, diabetes, depression and multiple sclerosis. Furthermore, participants rated the symptom burden resulting from back pain, cold symptoms, headache, insomnia, joint pain, gastrointestinal symptoms and imbalance. Unadjusted and adjusted odds ratios were calculated for each outcome.


1136 Steiner school attendees and 1746 controls were eligible for analysis. Both groups were comparable regarding sex, age and region, but differed in nationality and educational status. After adjusting for possible confounders, we found statistically significant effects of Steiner school attendance for osteoarthritis (OR 0.69 [0.49-0.97]) and allergic rhinitis (OR 0.77, [0.59-1.00]) as well as for symptom burden from back pain (OR 0.80, [0.64-1.00]), insomnia (OR 0.65, [0.50-0.84]), joint pain (OR 0.62, [0.48-0.82]), gastrointestinal symptoms (OR 0.76, [0.58-1.00]) and imbalance (OR 0.60, [0.38-0.93]).


The risk of most examined diseases did not differ between former Steiner school attendees and the general population after adjustment for sociodemographics, current and childhood lifestyle features, but symptom burden from some current health complaints was reported less by former Steiner school attendees. Results must be interpreted with caution since the analysis was exploratory.

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